On my shoulder, I feel… tap, tap… the prodding of the Holy Spirit, along with the words, “The time is 0400 in Davao.”
Oookaaay. I’m perplexed. I also have to look up as a refresher what 0400 means, as I don’t operate on so-called military time. As a courtesy, if you’re like me, that means 4 AM, lol.
Other cities and times are given to me over weeks, maybe months now, at different spots in my days. Even a waking in the middle of the night, I hear, “The time is 12:39 PM in Dubai.” Appreciating better the civilian time, I glance at the clock and had already grown accustomed to looking it up, as if I still needed confirmation. It was indeed 12:39 at that instance in Dubai.
I’m an intercessor and requests of the Lord can be unusual. At first, I wondered what this was about. Then I realized these were all port cities. I asked if God wanted me to pray for these cities; did it have to do with territories, spiritual dominion, what? Then I saw in my mind’s eye distinct lines across blue. These were shipping routes. I began praying, and it led to praying for not just the shipping industry or routes themselves, more so, who works at sea. In some instances, what I was experiencing in “stepping into the shoes of another” so to speak, was rather tangible. And it wasn’t like intense spiritual warfare. This was more like prayers for edification, encouragement, a building-up of the human heart and soul.
Dates are important, and for some reason here, so are clocks. Over the past year, the Lord has taken me into three-month seasonal increments with themes. They are somehow connected, although my human eyes and reasoning cannot tie it all together (yet) but I’ve been through the wilderness, mountains, stretches of desert, and now it seems the ocean. This is my “Period of Rendering” I’ve been told, until Purim, anyway. Not sure I’ll fully know what rendering means, as there are so many definitions. But currently, images, visions, dreams seem to have much to do with the seas, ships, and nautical symbolism. It’s grown strong. Even in my prayer language, maritime terms have flown out of my mouth, including crew positions. I had to refresh my mind on, for instance, what a bosun is and does.
As I’m praying for others, the Lord is also working with me. Although I grew up in a fishing village where a lot of people were about boats and fishing, those in my immediate circle were not. And to say I’ve had a healthy fear of water is an understatement. It’s probably pretty unhealthy. I’ve watched movies like The Perfect Storm, All Is Lost, or Poseidon with abject horror—yet I can’t look away; it’s torture. I’m not a strong swimmer. The idea of cruising the ocean has filled me with dread. I’ve had a PTSD kayaking incident (rescue) in the Gulf Islands. And a recurring nightmare has plagued me most of my life where I’m trapped in a sinking ship.
He’s reminded me that there was a time when he’d asked if I was willing to go to remote places on the earth to share his love for others, and I said yes. Decades ago, I served as a missionary all over the world with an amazing group of people who strove to preserve cultural wholeness rather than changing everybody up. We presented Jesus exactly as he is, a Semite who came for all people. We did cultural exchange programs—and I loved these—where I’d learn the local dances; I’d also teach my Jewish dances, and together we danced and celebrated the glory of God. But the recent reminder here hovered over locations. And willingness. There’s a joke among missionaries, “Yes, God, I’ll go and serve you; just don’t send me THERE.” And that’s usually where God sends you, the place you fear the most. Kind of like Jonah running from his mission to Nineveh then getting swallowed by a whale. As I was thinking about that, I remember when God had asked me to go to some pretty challenging and hard-to-reach places, ministering, joining arts and hearts, planting churches, delivering commodities. So many places, opportunities, tribes, and events.
So the Lord recently questioned me, “Tessa, if the ocean were a mission field and I asked you to go there… would you?”
I think over much of my life, the answer would have been no. Instead, I jumped and shouted, “Yes, Lord! Hineni!” Hineni is a Hebrew term that means much more than “Here I am!” It’s a serious way of giving yourself over to complete availability and total readiness. Wildly abandoned to God’s will. In other words, if you say it; you’d better mean it. And I do.
Water is often symbolic in the spiritual sense of expanding and moving, cleansing and flowing. The important thing is being ready for anything. And trusting wholeheartedly. And this is where God is working on my fear. I was surprised at my emphatic answer. But then I realized, I’m mentally at a place in life where I could give up everything, leave everything and sail, if that’s what he wanted me to do. I know he has my life in his hands and I can face anything. For if he’s beside me, behind me, before me, and beyond me and the horizon, and even below me, then I’ll be all right. Not unlike a lot of people, I’m not void of snags and complicated circumstances that hinder a mission of picking up and leaving if this were literal. I wondered about those details when the Lord gave me a vision. I was holding two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The outline or frame of the puzzle was already laid-out. The Lord had all the rest of the pieces in his hands and he plopped them down within the frame, and suddenly the puzzle was done, pieces put together. I snapped in my two little pieces, and the Lord said to me, his little girl, “Good job! I’m so proud of you,” making me sweetly feel as if I completed the puzzle when he did it all. I took this to mean to not worry about the process or details or how things fit together; he’s got it all, whatever “it” is. Just focus on the big-picture result, and childlike-trust him.
I believe this year will be a revealing of mysteries and revelations. “He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though He is surrounded by light.” (Daniel 2:22). Things that are shifting or have been getting into position in the heavenlies will suddenly fit together in the natural. The weary will burst into rejoicing (hallelujah). And I hear the Lord say, “Thank Me. Thank Me for what I’ve already done.” I just have to interject here that I honestly don’t know why anybody would not want to pursue a Spirit-filled life. It’s spontaneous, meaningful, and exciting. As an intercessor, I sometimes get to live vicariously through someone else and what they do, someone for whom I’m praying.
Speaking of that, apparently, I’m still in the metaphorical maritime phase. Yesterday, the Lord again told me to get ready for my new assignment, and that my future is going to look nothing like my past. Then he said, “Suit up.”
I’m like, “Right on! It’s go-time! I’m ready—wait, did you just say ‘Suit up’?!”
… to be continued
“Unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again, you will never come to the bottom of these depths.”—Robert Murray M'Cheyne
Choices make destinies. Destinies can also change.
A short story
In a year when thirty people jumped from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to commit suicide and succeeded, one person determined to join their throng.
Near light pole numbered sixty-nine, he swan-dives off the ledge, traveling at a velocity of eighty mph, free-falling 250 feet at low tide. Bound to converge on the despondent crowd of over 1,600 who preceded him in death since the majestic span erected in 1937, something shifts. Instant regret consumes him the second he unhands the viaduct. But the chance for survival after the four-second drop stands at less than one percent.
What if somewhere between his last contact with the steel bridge and the impact of the frigid, bone-crushing bay, hovers an alternative Courtroom in the Sky? A panel of Judges who reviews the motives in a person’s life.
Here enters Ralph “Specter” Specht, the famous frontman for the rock band, Ghosts of Fleas. In the eyes of the world, he led a good life; talented, successful, and spoiled. Nobody thought he could do such a thing, fling himself over the edge, even him. Not until the dark impulse.
The defendant on trial crosses the threshold into weighted proceedings. With a blooming change of mind, Ralph wonders if he will find a different sentence than what he first intended. His verdict awaits.
New book alert! Dark King’s Human Bride is available for preordering at select bookstores. Click the button below to reserve your copy of my latest dark fantasy of messianic proportions.
After its official release on January 24, 2022, the novel will be available in digital and/or print formats wherever books are sold.
Everyone has a voice, but do we need to use it? Sometimes. But sometimes we use it way too much. When heated opinions take center stage. One roars like a lion until the other roars in response. Pretty soon, everybody is roaring. If everybody is roaring, we can’t hear each other. We cancel each other out, leaving nothing except loud chaos and whirling anger, with the risk of manifesting into damaging animosity.
Sometimes… sometimes a period of silence is good medicine. Next time someone roars at you with something to prove, consider taking a step back. To meditate, pray, refresh, and explore better and more effective options before we run each other into the ground. Or maybe welcome a respite and allow the Lion of Judah to handle the issues of the day instead of taking matters into our own hands. Try letting go (note to self).
“The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”—Exodus 14:14
Just something to chew on other than the sinews of those we’d consider our opponents; because the climate has been sounding extra shrill. Have a silent day.
The swell of despair over disease, injustice, hostility, and chaos can be debilitating. The giant mountain of unemployment is heartbreaking; many are out-of-work for an unforeseen time. I’m feeling the angst of the entire struggle (I know I’m not alone), and the political system stinks (sorry). Things are feeling way off, different, wouldn’t you say? But this isn’t new, this troubling season, this has happened before in history. And humankind finds a way. We find a way to survive. We do. We will.
I’d say it’s a time of transition. Yet transitions often are painful, crushing. But transition usually redirects us towards something better. I believe two years from now will look very different from what it does today. Today never lasts, so if today is bad we have tomorrow’s sunrise.
The horizon is difficult to distinguish on a cloudy day. We can’t always see beyond, but we know the beyond is there. This is like faith. When we believe without seeing that the sun will crack through and shimmer over the waters once again, and we can feast our eyes on the fresh, beautiful, and awe-inspiring. God holds the future.
“Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’”—Isaiah 46:10
Regret. It’s a part of human nature since the fall of man, and I daresay we are born with having to deal with it. I have regrets. A few are doozies that keep me up some nights. They fall under the categories of immaturity, impetuousness, impatience, denial, poor choices—maybe ones that changed the trajectory of my life—and I’ll admit, foolishness. When I didn’t think or wait on the Lord, or heed the advice of others, but moved forward on my own volition. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Savage!
As an introverted writer, I have to say I’ve rather enjoyed this shelter-in-place era as little has changed in my day-to-day—other than closure of the Cherokee National Forest wherein lies tastes of freedom I particularly enjoy. But as a deep thinker, I’ve found this season especially challenging wherein thoughts can be dangerous. In other words, if the virus doesn’t kill you, or pro/anti-mask-wearers smack you depending on which “side” you’re on, regret just might. Unless you strive for a renewal every morning by God’s Word—our blueprint for life, a barebones necessity, our spiritual water, food, and shelter.
Writing is purpose-filled for me, messages contained within paper or digital pages intended for others. There is sometimes my own therapy in the progression, though. Which leads me to my current WIP (work-in-progress). After receiving emails asking if I’m going to write a sequel to Remnant, with the reemergence of Atizael, the answer is a solid yes. And I’ve started that; however, often the current of creativity demands a drop and refocus.
I’ve switched gears. Working feverishly to finish a book on regret and the transgressions and haunts of our past. It’s in the format of a dark fantasy romance, but the spiritual significance is there, and it’s what I—for some reason—need to spend my time on right now. The current working title at this point is Dark King’s Human Bride. And in being honest, unless my beta readers tell me, “Hey, Chicky, this is a bit much,” it’s coming out a touch graphic. I have a longstanding issue with much of Christian fiction being candy-coated anyway (perhaps more on this in another blog). Human nature is human nature, and evil is evil. Regret in all forms is regret in every form. It is what it is, and I have to be true to the nature of this beast.
But not without good intention! I find a quote by writer Anne Lamott perfect for the launch of this literary ride: “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.”
This savage has set off. More later.
Science fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein, coined the term “speculative fiction” in the 1940s. Since then, the industry often uses the “spec-fic” label as an all-inclusive phrase for any fiction that is science fiction, fantasy, horror, space opera, steampunk, superhero, alternate history, dystopian, paranormal, supernatural, weird fiction, or a combination, and more. But I think the genre today has strengthened into something more specific. Add in faith components to explore and--voilà!—you may have Christian speculative fiction.
There’s an element, a key to what makes something speculative. I find a lot of authors call themselves speculative but aren’t. Maybe they’re science fiction or dystopian; however, something is missing. Because a writer pens fantasy, for example, doesn’t make him/her spec-fic.
So what is it, what’s the needed key?
Speculation is defined as a notion based on conjecture rather than knowledge. Something formed over incomplete information. It’s abstract reasoning or exploration of an opinion based on guessing. It’s mystery. It’s the book that makes you grab your chin and say, “Hum… I’m not sure what to think about that, but it’s interesting, and let’s dwell on it for a spell.” It’s a walk on the bridge between the intellectual and the visceral and not based on a plot or characters in a world-build where the author spells everything out. It’s asking, “What if?” in an imaginative landscape that’s open for exploration.
Too often I grab a book to read that’s labeled Christian Speculative Fiction, yet it’s a straight up Christian fantasy, for example, (though perhaps well-done) that’s mapped out and exposited leaving no room for real speculation or imagination from the reader’s mind. I see it as a common mistake in branding. In fact, some authors might do better if they branded in a particular subgenre rather than speculative fiction because it’s harder to define. Ask eight people what spec-fic is and you’ll probably get eight different answers.
I think for a book to be truly speculative it needs to leave room for questions, be an enigma, puzzling, something difficult to understand. My favorite spec-fic books have ingredients that leave me with a big fat question mark in the shape of a stairway to climb within my mind. “What did I just read? That was an interesting slant. It challenged me; haunted me. Let’s revisit.” In fact, if you find a novel that doesn’t quite fit in a specific subgenre, such as horror or fantasy, yet it does at the same time, and you scratch your head wondering what it even is—because the labeling is difficult for you to determine—then I’d say you’ve probably discovered the heart of speculative fiction.
There are those reading this who would speculate on the accuracy of my speculation. And I’m just speculating, but the more the merrier.
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”—John Muir
The forest is calling me--always calls me—and I can’t wait for life’s weather to let up a bit where I can head out to my sweet spots once again. As a lover of not only nature but literature as well, I can devour works regarding the wilderness experiences of others if I’m planted inside the home for long. A while back, I’d posted a review on Cheryl Strayed’s trek. Her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, offered much to digest. Even better is Paul Stutzman’s Hiking Through. Never mind that I dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail and have lived vicariously by reading this author’s 5-month 14-state journey to complete the AT, his spiritual transformation brought me to tears. Just goes to show, as was pointed out, words have meaning. And our lives, purpose, aside from—and maybe because of—grief, heartache, choices, and possessions that weigh us down. What a stunning and freeing memoir! I highly recommend reading it. And then I urge you to get out in nature and let God speak to you and refresh you through his creation, the church of the mountains. See you on the trail!
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, because every morning is like starting afresh and I strive to do the best I can each day. But I’ll often receive a scriptural theme that blankets the coming year. For 2020, it’s Psalm 63:3-4: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift my hands."
Too often, it seems the urge during prayer or reflection is self-centered. That is: focus on self, do something good for self, be my better self, etc. But the more challenging life gets—and it can get pretty stinky—the more I’m certain Self can’t help with squat. 2020 will be like all the other years before it in that our days will have its difficulties. We might experience great or little change, promotions or loss—whatever it is—the only thing steadfast and better than life is the Lord’s love. So, I figure, no matter what, if we focus on that, his love, and do the best we can with what he has given us, praising him through the beautiful weather and the storms, we’ll be more than all right. And at the end of the year, if we’ve scaled a few mountains it’s because he got us there and we can look back and enjoy the view knowing he’s got this, ordaining the steps of the journey. He’s got us and we’ve got him. Breathe. Happy New Year.